The day fair play won

February 13, 1999 brought up a unique incident in Emirates FA Cup history - when Arsène Wenger offered a fifth-round rematch to Sheffield United after Marc Overmars had scored a controversial winner at Highbury.

Here's the story of that bizarre afternoon in north London, as told by Wenger, Tony Adams, Ray Parlour, Kanu and former Sheffield United manager Steve Bruce.
3pm: Shooting towards the Clock End, we get off to a fast start against our second-tier opposition as we looked to continue our defence of the FA Cup in a sun-soaked north London.
3.28pm: We are awarded a free-kick on the left-hand side of the visitors’ penalty box. Dennis Bergkamp steps up to deliver an inviting cross, which Patrick Vieira heads into the top corner to give us the lead.

Patrick Vieira

3.45pm: Kaba Diawara forces Alan Kelly into a smart stop and then hits the post moments later. Despite our dominance, we still only hold a one-goal lead at the break.
4.03pm: It only takes the Blades three minutes of the second half to make us pay for our missed chances, as Marcelo glances a header past David Seaman to equalise.
4.31pm: Kelly clears into touch to allow Lee Morris to receive treatment at the other end of the pitch. Ray Parlour aims to throw the ball back to Kelly, but Kanu misunderstands the situation and races on to it, and crosses for Marc Overmars to score.

Marc Overmars

Parlour: “When we were ready to start playing again, I tried to throw it back to him but I haven't got the longest of throws. So I threw it in his direction and I thought it would roll to him and he could then bring the ball back upfield. But then I saw Kanu run on to the ball, square it and all of a sudden Marc put the ball in their goal. I couldn't believe it, I looked at our bench and nobody moved because they were as shocked as I was.”
“I could not believe my eyes, I could not understand what was happening and if any of my players had done anything like that I would have sorted them out straightaway. At the time it was perhaps the most sickening moment of my entire career, certainly of my managerial experience.”
Adams: “I was being rested that day, so Steve Bould was captain in my absence and he asked the referee to disallow it, but Steve was told he couldn't because no rule was broken.”
4.33pm: Incensed by referee Peter Jones’ decision to allow the goal to stand, Bruce unsuccessfully attempts to take his players off the pitch in protest.

Steve Bruce

Bruce: “I had only been in charge six months, and suddenly I was confronted by this,” Bruce said. “I took the players off and was almost arrested for it. A police officer walked in and told us that if we didn't get them back on pretty sharpish, I would end up in the nick. The whole thing was weird.”
Full-time: We hold on to secure our progression to the sixth round of the competition, and leave the field to a chorus of boos from the 5,000 travelling fans.
5pm: Wenger immediately steps in and offers Bruce a chance to replay the match at Highbury.
Wenger: “The only way to redress the situation was to offer to play the game again. That was accepted by Sheffield United and approved by the Football Association. Even if sometimes the rules are not written down to cover a certain situation, there is respect and there is the sprint in which football should be played.
“That is why we as a club - the chairman, vice chairman - the entire board of directors, me and the players - wanted the cup tie to be re-staged. It was the only sensible answer to a difficult situation.”

Arsene Wenger

Bruce: “Arsenal’s gesture was first class but it would have been nice to have had them back at our place. Maybe that was asking too much and perhaps it was us just being a bit greedy. But in our heart of hearts, we all know our chance went with that incident in the first game.”
February 23, 1999: With the FA’s consent, the rematch takes place 10 days later. This time Overmars and Bergkamp put us in charge and, although the Blades grabbed a late consolation, they suffered another 2-1 defeat at Highbury.
Kanu: “What happened against Sheffield United was an unfortunate misunderstanding. Even when all the shouting was going on, I still didn't know what the problem was until I asked Steve Bould, who explained that I was the cause of it. I felt really bad, so I was so pleased that the club stepped in to let the game be played again.”
Wenger: “We all want Arsenal to be successful, I want Arsenal to win every competition for which the club competes. But the priority is to do it in the right way, within the spirit of football. We want to win by respecting the rules, written or unwritten.”

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